Saint Paul de Vence

Saint Paul de Vence

 

Once again, I was lucky enough to enjoy a ten day holiday on the Côte d’Azur. We stayed in Antibes for a week and then went to my favourite place, Juan Les Pins for the last three days. During this exquisite holiday we did visit the Provence area and one of the places we explored is the beautiful Saint Paul de Vence.

We parked on the hill near the actual village. It is bizarre how the village looks miles away, but is, in fact, a short stroll from the car park. We passed the chaps playing boules and I wondered (out loud) why all the players are male? We assume this is how some of the retired French chaps spend their retirement.

The rocky outcrop of this omnipresent village, St Paul de Vence, is certainly one of the most fascinating villages to visit. As you drive towards the village, it appears to be both floating and protruding amongst the surrounding landscape of the Provence. No wonder it attracted artists such as Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse,  James Baldwin, Jean-Paul Satre, Picasso and the Rolling Stones bassist, Bill Wyman is said to have a home in this area.

The walls of this historic village are from the mid-15th century and astonishingly have not changed since they were built. St Paul de Vence itself is serene and compelling, especially if you like contemporary art and beautiful views. The winding paths are enveloped by beautiful scenery and copious art galleries. To be honest, this is my idea of bliss; an array of paintings, sculptures, drawing you into the artistic spaces.

Love this window display…

It is also fun to lose yourself in the maze of ancient paths, curious street sculptors, ceramics, fountains, flowers and spectacular landscape. If you wander away from the crowds, as we did, you enjoy the quiet back streets and views of the superlative Côte d’Azur. Such a haven for dripping plants, arty discoveries and inspiring views, particularly if you are creative.

Whilst visiting a quiet area, we heard a car coming and rapidly stepped to one side. A large gleaming Bentley, shimmering in the sun, stopped abruptly at large gates. The driver waved to thank us for jumping out of the way. The man in the back had a rugged look about him and wore a floppy hat. Wondered who that was? Beautiful, old car. Oh, that’s the other thing about this region of the world, you see some glorious, classic cars.

This magnificent village is a great place to wander and enjoy some ice cream, cuisine, art, sculpture, historical architecture and scenery. Great to see how well this village has been preserved among the citrus trees, flowers and vineyards. We visited at the end of April and it was fairly busy, so it is probably packed during July and August. This ubiquitous place is truly wonderful, insightful and uplifting, so I’m not really surprised.

It is 7km from Cagnes sur Mer and between Nice and Antibes. Do visit and more travel posts coming up.

Source and loads of info here: saint-pauldevence.com

Chilham, Bluebells and Whitstable

Chilham Castle in the distance…

 

We decided to venture out for a day in Chilham for a bluebell walk which was organised by the RSC (Royal Society of Chemistry). Luckily, we were blessed with a warm, sunny day and arrived an hour early due to my husband’s keenness for punctuality! The village is small with a medieval square overlooked by the impressive and imposing Chilham Castle. We wandered around hoping to find a tea shop open for a quick cuppa, but nothing opened until ten o’clock. They maybe missing a business trick here. It didn’t matter, it is wonderful to stroll around and take photos including the Tudor houses and St. Mary’s Church.

Chilham

Everyone arrived and met at Shelly’s tea shop, which was also irritatingly shut, and we introduced ourselves and ventured forth towards King’s Wood. The landscape and woodland around Chilham is truly exquisite and the bluebells just seem to become more impressive as the walk continued.

The walking folks were very friendly and I discussed my interest in health and fitness with a lady called Kate who was into fitness and yoga, and a possible hope to do a charity 10k run in the Autumn. Everyone, was very encouraging, but I’m still considering the challenge because trust me, it will be a massive task for me.

Some scientific conversations did ensue and we heard an interesting story about how nerve gas doesn’t dissipate into the atmosphere and could be doing the rounds on our currency! Then we were told a tale about when currency is scientifically examined, all sorts of drug traces are found…

The walk was fun and it is always interesting to chat to new people and hear their take on life. The views are incredible around Chilham and I’m sure the castle is well worth a visit too.

Whitstable…

 

After we had our lunch, we drove to Whitstable and after eventually parking the car, we wandered along the sea front. My goodness, it was busy. Apparently, this is where London people go to at the weekend. In other words, it has become the trendy place to visit. It shows too. All the old huts and houses have been painted and refurbished and of course, the property prices have, no doubt, shot up.

To be fair, it is a great place to visit with the selection of arty galleries, shops, (micro) pubs, restaurants, etc. We have decided to come back on a week day to explore properly and hopefully it won’t be quite so busy.

All in all a fabulous day out and I can’t wait to go back to Chilham and Whitstable.

Oyster stall..

 

 

Gardening, BBQs, beer and a funny story…

Can’t believe I’m revealing this, but think the gardening thing is coming back to me, a bit. During my younger days, the garden would be an escape. Hubby came home from work and enjoyed bathing and reading the children a bedtime story.

I used to sow seeds in the greenhouse and then plant them out in May and continue to tend the flowers, weed, prune and so on. During their teen years, I succumbed to study, because of my love of all thing literature and I guess that took over. Now they descend on us for Sunday roasts and summer bbqs and we have a fabulous time, putting the world to rights and enjoying a glass 🥃 of something…or two.

This year, I was dreading the gardening season (don’t succumb to soil activities in the winter) because it looked so overgrown. However, it has now been weeded and I somehow found the strength to mow the annoyingly long grass.

In the UK, the weather has suddenly improved. The everlasting grey clouds have been replaced by some white clouds and sun. It won’t last, but it is lovely while here. This has motivated me into a flurry of cleaning and gardening. What is surprising, is this year, I’m actually embracing the glorious weather and garden. We’ve even been to the garden centre to buy a supply of gardening acrutriments and plants. This includes copious amounts of gardening gloves, for our precious hands, garden forks and bbq tools, so the hubster doesn’t burn himself whilst turning the flaming meat over. Yes, we have a new bbq, bought by the kiddies. The previous one was disintegrating before our eyes.

Everybody visited on Sunday, for a bbq: “The weather is looking good for the weekend, so shall we try out the new bbq?” Son asks, with a cheeky smirk on his face.
I agreed, because I’m determined to enjoy, or endure, more bbqs this summer. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it rained. Luckily, we changed the time and cooked and entertained at lunch time, eat inside and then chilled out in my summerhouse. Beer was involved. Well you need to keep warm somehow, don’t you? We watched the rain pour down, but being typically British stayed huddled in the summer house.

My son-in-law, arrived during this time and after some painful deliberation, my hubby, bravely ventured out into the pouring rain, to unlock the garden gate. He arrived at the summerhouse, for some reason, declaring “You are all mad!” The summerhouse is not large. We huddled some more, I was introduced to a beer called ‘Elvis Juice’ and a funny tale (more later), the chaps then escaped and lit the chimnea. Then we huddled around that instead.

What a splendid day.

Oh, the strange tale… Apparently, the Elvis Estate, in their wisdom, decided to object to BrewDog naming the beer Elvis Juice. So, the BrewDog owners/brewers, in their wisdom, apparently, changed their names to Elvis! Well, two of the brewers (owners) did. They won their case and it is still called ELVIS JUICE and is the third best selling beer in the UK!

https://www.brewdog.com/lowdown/blog/elvis-juice-here-to-stay

Maastricht – day 4

We went for another decadent breakfast and then enjoyed wandering around the Friday morning market. It exudes a buzz and is very busy. The market is clearly a successful one which has everything including, fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, toiletries, flowers, clothes and copious amounts of fabric and sewing stalls. Obviously, the Dutch love to sew because the amount of fabric stalls frequented by locals was extraordinary. Quite envious of the market because you could acquire much of the weekly food shop there.

During the afternoon, we strolled into the local park, visited an old mill and sat and had a cuppa in a busy square. The sun was shining and we enjoyed bitterballen and beer too. Once we languished in the sun, we didn’t really want to move.

My overall impression of Maastricht was very good. Lovely place, with great architecture (historical and modern), bars, restaurants, parks, river and shops. Very relaxing place to visit and easy to drive to from Calais. A great holiday with plenty of food, drink and walking. One day we walked over 19,000 steps and on the quiet, easy days, we ended up walking 15,000 steps. There is hardly any traffic although you do have to watch the bikes. This makes it easy to wander and explore. Yes, a super place to visit and recommended.

Maastricht – day 3

We caught a train to Valkenburg which is a beautiful city and a fascinating place to explore. Before the train journey, we popped into a bakery for coffee and croissants. The shops and eateries in this area are so stylish and a joy to visit.

Wandering around the streets of Valkenberg was glorious with quirky architecture, castle overlooking the town and the ‘caves’. Apparently, the castle belonged to the illegitimate son of Duke Philip, known as the bastard of Burgundy. Much of the buildings are known to be similar to Burgundy, for this reason. The Burgundian lifestyle still means enjoyment, delicious food and extravagance. There are areas full restaurants where you can stop have a drink and a meal and watch the world go by. We did this for lunch and it was so relaxing and felt quite decadent and wonderful.

The castle is unique in the Netherlands because it is the only one built on a hill. We did a tour of the caves which was weirdly creepy but interesting nevertheless. The whole tour was in Dutch and we were given a paper with the main information. This was OK, but as it was so dark, we had to use the torches on our phones. I felt quite disorientated because I’ve always disliked caves but it was interesting. We learnt about the block cutter’s workstation, the Valkenburg Castle, the American army during WW2, the Royal House, and the sad tale of two boys getting lost in the caves and found perished in 1993. The tour guide turned his lamp off to demonstrate the darkness. At this moment, it became clear how you’d be lost without a lamp.

Overall, a great day out. Particularly enjoyed wandering around the old town and the lovely lunch whilst watching the world walk by.

Maastricht – day 2

We went to a lovely cafe for coffee and croissant for breakfast. Really enjoyed the place and they even had a glass fridge full of bottled beer. I’d love one in my home! Then headed towards the River Maas for some photos and across the bridge for even more photos. The sky was very grey and atmospheric so great for photography. We walked along the cobbled streets admiring the architecture and local life. You certainly have to watch the cyclists, some of which text as they cycle.

They have some curious shops full of funny bits which I’m sure maybe useful…somewhere. Socks with ‘i hate everyone’ on and suction tools for getting boiled eggs out of hot water. Always fun to see shops in other countries. Never buy much because cannot be bothered to cart it home. Can you?

By midday we stopped for apples and water before climbing the red tower to enjoy the view. Steep claustrophobic steps ensued. Phew. We managed it…somehow! The red tower is called Sint Janskerk and is 17th century Gothic. The red tower can be seen for miles and a wonderful, unusual sight. The limestone tower was said to originally be covered with a coat of ox blood but has been restored with normal paint. After our arduous climb we were rewarded with sweeping views of Maastricht. Quite incredible.

After this we plonked ourselves in one of the local cafes and ordered tea and bitterballen. We joked how this will become a daily 3 o’clock habit. Must say I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around and then enjoying family chatter in the cafe watching the world go by with tea and bitterballen. In the square children chased birds, bikes whizzed passed and there was a hilarious woman posing Angelina style while her hubby was trying to photo her. It did look funny watching her pose, leg out, arm on hip, holding brolly as her man was getting soaked taking the photo.

During the evening we had another jolly family meal and a wander around the narrow cobbled streets.

Maastricht… day 1

Why Maastricht?

This is going to be our first family holiday for years and it is all very exciting. We are going with our offspring and their partners. Maastricht is the place we are visiting, because my daughter’s husband grew up there as a child and wants to show us the place.

Day 1

We set off bleary eyed in the car with cases and a jointly prepared picnic. The journey was relaxing because my son-in-law kindly offered to drive. During the journey enjoyed one or two naps and watched the English, French, Belgium and eventually the Dutch countryside rushing by. We stopped for lunch which was ham or cheese rolls, tomatoes and coleslaw. Homemade cookies, made by son’s girlfriend and omg they were delicious. We sat outside, and although freezing, it was fun and we were pleased to eat because all ravenous.

We arrived, parked in the hotel carpark and set off for beers and bitterballen. We found a bar and relaxed for a couple of hours and then returned to the hotel to register, unpack and refresh for dinner. Must say, already impressed with Maastricht with its cobled streets, beautiful architecture and vibrant, busy bars.

Dinner was a huge plate of Satay chicken, salad and chips. When I finished, I did think about choosing some healthy options, at some point, during this adventure.

Can’t wait to explore the city.